I was reading Kaveh Mousavi’s blog today and came across this short piece: Basically, if you’re not a historian, how…
Good news, everyone! My talk for the Illini Secular Student Alliance at UIUC back in April is now up for everyone to see. In my presentation, I talk about the 20th century origins of the ancient astronaut hypothesis (now in its modern TV form, Ancient Aliens), the sorts of claims about the past and why they don’t hold up, and into the sorts of claims related to modern UFOs and alien visitations–that is, close encounters. I also get to bring up my research and book on the Star of Bethlehem.
A few weeks ago on the History Channel’s sister station, H2, the astronomy-based series The Universe went on a quest to solve an ancient mystery. Previous episodes in the previous few weeks had covered the construction and purpose of the pyramids (which was pretty good), Stonehenge, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The first two certainly have an astronomical connection, such as the solstice alignment of Stonehenge, but explaining Sodom’s ruin via astronomical body begs the very serious question: was this simply a theological story or etiological myth? Apparently that skepticism couldn’t find its way to the heart of the show.
Here is a quote that I posted on the Daily Telegraph (eek) in the UK which was reporting the letter it had received denouncing PM Cameron’s claim that we should be proud that we are a Christian nation. I will first post the comment I reacted to:
Tihs has come up in conversation elsewhere, so I thought I would resurrect this old post from my old, old…
As part of the continuing efforts to get the message out about the Star of Bethlehem and the failure to explain it with astronomy, I was interviewed on the Exposing Pseudoastronomy podcast, run by Stuart Robbins, an young planetary scientist and skeptic. In the past, the podcast has tackled lots of material from Coast to Coast AM and some of their top guests, such asRichard Hoagland, in great but comfortable detail. That should be enough reason to subscribe to this skeptical outlet.
It’s been a while since I have posted, but I have been super-busy with getting my PhD and other research-related activities. But there has been some great news when it comes to my work on The Star of Bethlehem. Over on Amazon, the reviews have been very positive, with one exception–though that person has proven to not be a charitable reader to put it nicely.
Here’s a reminder about my debate with Randal Rauser which took place last year over the historicity of the nativity accounts. Listen in and enjoy! The post from last year. My nativity book is available from the sidebar over there!
[Just to remind readers that the book I have recently edited, written by contributor Aaron Adair, called The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View. is out now in all formats from a variety of sellers. It is a great book, and one which Richard Carrier has said is “awesome”. Please support our work by buying it! It’ll make an awesome Christmas present! Over to Aaron’s launch piece for those who missed it – JP]
Nearly two millennia ago, a story was told of a wondrous star in the heavens, beaming forth to proclaim the birth of an infant, destined to rule. Coaxing priests from an eastern kingdom to travel in search of this infant, the object led them to their destination and allow for the worship of the savior of the world.
Or so the story goes. But did it really happen, and if so, what was this magnificent star? A comet? An exploding star? An astrological portent? Something more bizarre?
This week the next big book in Jesus scholarship hit the stores. Well, I guess it’s big in the sense that it is attached to a well-known name, Fox News’ host/anchor/pundit Bill O’Reilly. Earlier I had heard about his book, Killing Jesus, which was a bit easy to make fun with since the artwork for the cover suggested who the murder was, and his previous major book with a similar title, Killing Lincoln, was considered so riddled with factual errors that Lincoln-connected museums were not willing to sell it.
[EDIT] Sorry about this post, because I starting writing it (well, copying it from Aaron’s blog) with a view to…
Several months ago it was reported that the Manchester Museum had an oddity on its shelf. This wasn’t the sort of thing that was from an unknown yet gone civilization, its traces beyond the ability of archaeologists to explain or place into history, but what appeared to be the inexplicable motion of a very old statue. More recently it has become news because of the viral video of its motion using a time-lapse camera. What we see is that, slowly through the day the statue, which is from the Egyptian Middle Kingdom (~4000 years ago), slowly rotates about 180 degrees. And by slowly, I mean it takes hours or days.
About two weeks ago I was contacted about participating in a conference next year at the University of Groningen. In 2014 they are celebrating their 400th anniversary so it seems appropriate it relate to something else from 1614. In that year, Johannes Kepler published his tome on chronology, arguing that Jesus was born several years earlier than was the tradition in his time (on Dec 25 in 1 BC). In that book, he also talked about the Star of Bethlehem, and this is the apparent link for this conference.
I have been kindly asked to give a talk to the Dorset Humanists next month, They seemed to enjoy my last few talks so much as to want me to create a talk to deliver. I am gratefully obliging.
I will be looking at arguments for and against God, starting off with the wide deistic arguments from philosophy, and then narrowing down to particular arguments concerning the historicity and probability of the Judeo-Christian God. Here is something I am working on with regards to the ridiculousness of the Exodus account.
This is Part 3 of a critical examination of the MMEL hypothesis of the Star of Bethlehem. Go to the index here.
So far in this critical appraisal of the MMEL hypothesis, there has not been much attention paid to the actual theory of what the Star of Bethlehem was other than to say it deals with conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus in the years 3 and 2 BCE. While already it is falsified as an explanation of Matthew’s account since it takes place after the death of Herod the Great (see Part 1 & Part 2), I shall not ignore what possible astronomical or astrological explanations are here. Perhaps they can explain the Star in another way (including helping create the narrative based on a back-calculation rather than an authentic historical tradition), or the conjunctions of another type can be related to what the Magi were interested in.
So this story has been doing the rounds of the international news agencies and channels over the last week. It seems we humans will do quite a number of things to survive. A powerful driver. Think the rugby team who were stranded after a plane crash in the Andes. I am a rugby player myself. No holds barred animalism…
Previously I had talked about an amazing piece of computational engineering from the ancient world, the Antikythera mechanism, which was also posted up at A Tippling Philosopher. In the comments there, a discussion came up about another wonder of antiquity which has attracted all sorts of speculations among alternative thinkers. This is the construction of the temple complex at the city of Baalbek, also known as Heliopolis, in modern-day Lebanon, about 70 kilometers* north of Damascus. The site has considerable antiquity, but it is the large stones at the temple, especially the three known as the Trilithon, that have garnered the greatest attention, each weighing in around 800 tons.* And deservedly so, as they are some of the largest single objects ever moved in the pre-modern era.
I just learned from Jason Colavito that PBS NOVA the other day aired a documentary about the unraveling of one of the incredible enigmas of antiquity. And naming it after the German code machine isn’t a bad idea either, considering that this device is a marvel of gears and other mechanisms all working together.